Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Apr 25, 2003
Industry & Economy
`If Cancun meet fails, so will WTO'
Mr Richard Carden
NEW DELHI, April 24
EVEN as the move to evolve the modalities on important negotiations in the WTO such as agriculture, public health and TRIPs, industrial tariffs remained deadlocked, Britain and other members of the European Union are "trying hard to identify where we can focus forward to making the ministerial meeting in Cancun a success".
Disclosing this to Business Line here in an interview, the British Government's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Director-General (Europe and World Trade), Mr M. Richard Carden, said this is because if Cancun meeting fails, WTO will fail and Seattle will repeat which will be potentially damaging and will force the Doha Round to spin out longer. "We have to try very hard to avoid that."
Mr Carden admitted that "major difficult issues such as agriculture and TRIPs and medicines should be settled between now and Cancun. There are tensions in the international community resulting not only from what is happening in Iraq but because of the state of the world economy that is not encouraging." The levels of unemployment in continental Europe remained higher than in the recent past and these are not helpful background. Moreover, Mr Carden conceded, "we have not made enough progress as we should over deadline in the Doha Declaration which we made on TRIPs and medicines and special and differential (S&D) treatment at the end of last year and agriculture since then and some others over putting offers on services. But still this is not a catastrophe as we say in WTO."
He said that "we are now fixing our eyes on the Cancun meeting in September and concentrating on what we think needs to be done and can be done between now and September with the aim of making sure that ministers when they get together are not burdened with things to decide. We have got to decide more between now and then on two issues which stand apart than the rest viz., TRIPs and medicines and agriculture. We have got to nail down agreement on TRIPs and medicines before the Ministers get together in Cancun."
He admitted that on implementation issues of the Uruguay Round and S&D treatment, there was not much progress and "we have been trying with different approaches and ways to see that we move forward better in the next few months".
Mr Carden said, "As is seen from here, the European Union (EU) is depicted as the defender of the Singapore issues of competition, investment, trade facilitation and government procurement" on which New Delhi had serious reservations. "But these issues were agreed in Doha to go on the agenda and we see potential advantages in trying for some start-up pact on WTO rules on the Singapore issues. I know there was not much enthusiasm from the Indian side at Doha. But we have come a long way since then and am encouraged to find that there are people discussing whether any or all those issues will have advantages to the developed and developing countries".
Asked about his interaction with the Commerce Secretary Mr Dipak Chatterjee and the Advisor to the Finance Minister Dr Vijay Kelkar here, Mr Carden refused to be drawn into details.
He, however, pointed out that there are areas of convergence on services "with the European Union trying hard to agree on some further opening up our market for movement of people which in WTO jargon Mode-4-temporary movement of people for work."
He said "we are very conscious of the importance of that for India. The debate has been about how can we move forward in opening up the way India wants in the sectors that matter to India including in some services sector which are quite sensitive to Britain. The process of discussion is still on and we have something to offer. India in turn can make similar moves to open market here in some services that are of interest to us such as legal services and we have been talking about that".
Mr Carden said that he has discussed tariffs on industrial goods with Indian authorities.
He said some constructive discussions were held though the matter has been discussed in Geneva with various formulae for reducing industrial tariff but we have not reached agreement on any one formula.
There is recognition here and we are rightly looking for a formula that ties four countries including India and Brazil to cutting tariffs in a whole range of sectors. We have touched some areas where we can finds ways of putting together the interest of India and developed countries in a formula.
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